BWW Review: CHASING RAINBOWS: THE ROAD TO OZ at Paper Mill Playhouse-An Exhilarating New Musical Theatre Production
"Rainbows don't last forever, but neither does the rain."
By Judy Garland in Chasing Rainbows
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz is now making its thrilling New Jersey premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse through October 27. This new musical theatre production kicks off the 81st season at the renowned Millburn Playhouse. The show features a book by Marc Acito with musical adaptation and additional music by David Libby. It was conceived by Tina Marie Casamento who also contributes additional lyrics. Masterfully directed and choreographed by Denis Jones, the orchestrations are by Larry Blank and David Libby with musical direction by Lawrence Yurman.
Don't miss this one. For those of us who are fans of Judy Garland, this show is a must. It will also appeal to people who appreciate an honest coming of age story about a young performer with outstanding vocal talent and a true passion for the stage. We attended opening night when the appreciative audience gave the show a standing ovation.
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz tells of young Frances Gumm, later known by the stage name, Judy Garland. Her trials and triumphs are portrayed from the time she was a child performing in vaudeville shows with her two sisters in Minnesota through the Gumm's big move to California where she becomes a teenage star with MGM studios. Judy enjoys the support of her family, especially from her loving father, Frank even though her parents dealt with marital conflicts. Despite Judy's theatrical gifts and remarkable vocal talent, her journey to fame was hardly easy. As a teen, she lacked the glamorous appearance of other Hollywood stars. Judy gained recognition when she was cast in the Andy Hardy movie series with Mickey Rooney and then she rose to fame when she starred as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. This compelling story is told with humor, spirit, and compassion complemented by an excellent musical score and dazzling dance numbers.
You will be captivated by the show's versatile cast that brings to life colorful characters from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Ruby Rakos is charismatic as Judy Garland/Frances Gumm. Other leading actors include Max von Essen as Frank Gumm; Lesli Margherita as Ethel Gumm; Karen Mason as Ma Lawlor/Kay Koverman; Stephen DeRosa as Louis B. Mayer; Michael Wartella as Mickey Rooney; and Colin Hanlon as Roger Edens.
Rounding out the marvelous cast are Tia Altinay, Mackenzie Bell, Kristen Grace Brown, Lamont Brown, Joe Cassidy, Clara Cox, Tessa Grady, Sophie Knapp, Molly Lyons, Kimberly Immanuel, Christina Maxwell, Kevin B. McGlynn, Allsun O'Malley, Samantha Joy Pearlman, Drew Redington, Joshua J. Schwartz, Parker Slaybaugh, Sean Thompson, Violet Tinnirello and Kathy Voytko. Audiences will be delighted by the talent of youngsters, Sophie Knapp as Baby Frances Gumm and Violet Tinnirello as Shirley Temple.
Musical highlights abound in Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz. From the young performers to Broadway veterans, the songs are wonderfully presented and the dance sequences are mesmerizing. Some favorites include "Shooting High" by the Gumm Family; "This is a Happy Little Ditty" by Shirley and Students; "You Made Me Love You" by Ethel and Frank; "When You're Smiling" by Frank & Baby; "Judy" by George Jessel and Judy; "Roger's Coaching" by Roger and Judy; "Swing, Mister Mendelssohn" by Edna Mae, Mickey & Judy; "If/Only by Kay; and of course, "Over the Rainbow" by Judy.
The production team has done a fabulous job of bringing Chasing Rainbows to the Millburn stage. The scenic design is by Alexander Dodge; costume design by Linda Cho; lighting design by Japhy Weideman; sound design by Matt Kraus; projection design by Peter Nigrini; hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe and makeup design by Dena Olivieri. John Fricke serves as creative consultant. The production stage manager is Bonnie Panson. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.
We applaud Producing Artistic Director, Mark S. Hoebee and Managing Director, Michael Stotts for making Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz available to metro area theatergoers. It will surely wow Millburn audiences this fall.
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse through Sunday, October 27. The show runs for 2.5 hours with one 15-minute intermission. The Playhouse is located at 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ. For more information, visit their web site at https://papermill.org. / or call 973.376.4343.
Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade and Jerry Dalia